We’re in the middle of a standup comedy boom. It’s never been bigger. There’s no one reason, as the soar in popularity of podcasts, roast battles and big budget Netflix specials have all contributed to this glut of laughs and comedic perspectives. However, there is one unsung hero who’s played a pivotal role in the mainstream success of comedy by bricklaying the foundation of the underground. That man’s name is, Ari Shaffir.
*I’m not an expert nor a historian but I am a comedy nerd so some of the names and references I’m about to drop may be a little obscure.*
For decades, there was a palpable beef between West Coast (mostly Los Angeles) and East Coast (mostly New York and Boston) comedians. New York and Boston comedians thought L.A. comics were vapid, shallow and showboaty while it seemed as if L.A. comics perceived their coastal counterparts to be unnecessarily gritty, brash and everything blue collar that they were trying to get away from. Ari Shaffir played and is still playing a major role in squashing this beef by bridging the two comedy meccas together via podcasts, a collaborative storytelling tv show and most importantly, live comedy shows.
Ari Shaffir, a.k.a. “The Amazing Racist”, developed his chops at the world famous Comedy Store in Los Angeles in the early 2000’s. He had some moderate success around town, featuring for big comics like Carlos Mencia (big comic at the time), Tom Segura and Joe Rogan. In 2013, Ari started to gain real mainstream traction with the success of his storytelling web-series, “This Is Not Happening” presented by Comedy Central on Youtube which was later picked up by the network as a full fledged tv show in 2015. He also dropped his second special, “Paid Regular“, the same year and week on the network. Around that time, Ari started traveling back and forth between the two coasts before officially becoming a New York City resident in 2015. This catalyzed a new relationship between New York and L.A. comedians that has proved to be fruitful for both sides.
Most of you know who Joe Rogan is. He’s essentially an L.A. comedian who first gained mainstream fame for hosting “Fear Factor”, then as a headlining comedian but most of you know him now as one of the biggest podcasters hosting one of the biggest podcasts out there, “The Joe Rogan Experience”. Well, Ari and Joe are best friends. When Ari moved to New York, he made more friends..very funny comedian friends. With Ari’s endorsement he got Joe to put those friend’s on Joe’s podcast and boom, careers were made, saved and resurrected. People like Mark Normand, Joe List, Dan Soder, Big Jay Oakerson, Luis J Gomez, and Dave Smith were all introduced to Joe through Ari. These comics are all killing the underground scene, poised to be household names when comedy inevitably shifts back to the dark ages.
Ari didn’t forget about his L.A. comedian friends. He made sure they got in with his new community in New York as well. Old friends like Tony Hinchcliffe, Jayson Thibault, Sam Tripoli, and Bert Kreischer are almost all now touring the country (and some the world) as a result of their success on New York City podcasts and shows. This would have never happened without Ari’s backing. These comedians gained an entire new fanbase and opened up an entirely new market (the east coast) just by being associated with Ari. I’m simplifying their success way too much but even they would agree that Ari had a lot to do with bringing the two comedy communities together for the betterment of everyone.
I could go on and on about Ari but I feel like I’ve given you all enough of a reason to at least check out a few of his projects to get to know a little bit about why he’s such an important person in comedy. He’s not a household name because he doesn’t want to be but he’s a big reason why comedy is so good today. He’s free, principled and willing to do whatever it takes t get a laugh in the moment. Check out his podcast, Skeptic Tank and go see him live any chance you get.